A re­ward­ing stint vol­un­teer­ing for re­porter

South Canterbury Herald - - MOTORING -

Ti­maru’s Rid­ing for the Dis­abled runs lessons three days a week and re­lies on more than 50 vol­un­teers, re­porter had the priv­i­lege of work­ing along­side some for the se­cond in­stal­ment in our se­ries on vol­un­teer groups.

Hav­ing very lim­ited ex­pe­ri­ence with horses, I felt a bit ner­vous when I ar­rived to spend a morn­ing vol­un­teer­ing at Ti­maru’s Rid­ing for the Dis­abled.

How­ever, by the time I left I felt gen­uinely lucky to have wit­nessed the dif­fer­ence rid­ing made to the chil­dren and young adults with dis­abil­i­ties - and found it eye-open­ing to gain some un­der­stand­ing of the dif­fi­cul­ties they faced.

Thank­fully I was not the only new vol­un­teer, and I was soon re­as­sured peo­ple from all walks of life helped out at RDA, not only ‘‘horsey’’ peo­ple.

About 30 peo­ple at­tend the Ti­maru group, with three rid­ing days held ev­ery week. The group is one of 55 in the coun­try, and re­lies on vol­un­teers and qual­i­fied rid­ing coaches.

About 52 vol­un­teers help the or­gan­i­sa­tion - many of them help with the horses, but oth­ers as­sist in other ways, for in­stance fundrais­ing in the com­mu­nity.

Coach Wendy Marr said peo­ple came to Rid­ing for the Dis­abled for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons - and while some of the peo­ple who at­tended were on the autism spec­trum, oth­ers had dif­fer­ent men­tal or phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties.

Rather than get­ting in­volved in the lessons straight away, I went to help pre­pare the horse’s feed with co-or­di­na­tor Gill Collins, who told me a bit about the horses which were care­fully cho­sen for their suit­abil­ity.

The horses had only re­cently re­turned to Rid­ing for the Dis- abled, af­ter they were cut off for two weeks due to heavy flood­ing in the district. They were stranded on a pad­dock be­long­ing to Ti­maru Boys’ High School, and the chil­dren were happy to have them back.

Gill said among the nine horses was ‘ Frag­gle’, an older horse with a very easy­go­ing per­son­al­ity, Frag­gle had been re­tired four times, but kept be­ing brought back.

Dur­ing a les­son, the horses would be led around a pad­dock on horse­back be­fore go­ing into a pen where peo­ple could do dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties while still sit­ting on the horse.

Early in the morn­ing, I helped a young boy named Lo­gan with an ac­tiv­ity de­signed to help with his co-or­di­na­tion and move­ment, this in­volved throw­ing him a ball which he then put through a hoop.

Al­though he had not spo­ken while he was be­ing led around, he be­gan to talk and re­act when the ball went through, ask­ing for the hoop to be moved.

It was amaz­ing see­ing the dif­fer­ence in another man who did not seem very aware of the world around him at the start of the les­son.

As he com­pleted the ex­er­cises suc­cess­fully, he took his cue from the peo­ple around him and be­gan to laugh, clap and smile.

I went away think­ing it must be a re­ward­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion to be in­volved in, and feel­ing a sense of ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the vol­un­teers who make it hap­pen.

Horses were led into a pen which was set up with cones and sta­tions where the chil­dren could do dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties while still sit­ting on the horse. Pic­tured is Lo­gan Scot­tWal­ton.

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